I had Larynx Cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage 4. It was mainly due to my smoking. I started smoking during my college days when I was 15. It was peer pressure. As I grew up, I started working. I never left my cigarette and my cigarette never left me. We loved each other a lot, till I got Cancer. I ignored all the symptoms and kept on going to my local Doctor. He kept on changing antibiotics. That didn’t help. My voice started getting hoarse and I started losing weight. I had trouble eating and breathing. All the symptoms of throat cancer were evident.
I was at my mom’s place, and my wife was in the United States for the job. I was with my mom because I was afraid to sleep alone. I couldn’t breathe. My mother took me to the hospital and they did an Endoscopy on my throat. I was diagnosed with a Stage 4 tumor.
Since my wife was in the United States, my family decided that I should be treated there because she was able to get contacts from the James Cancer Hospital and Columbia’s Ohio. Fortunately, I had my visas and documents ready, but it was a big risk for my wife to get me to the US. I didn’t know how long I was going to live, and what if something happens to me.
When I reached the US, they inserted a Stacatomy tube in my throat. In the meantime, the tumor spread from my throat to my spine. They planned to do surgery and remove my vocal cords. They then gave up on my surgery and informed me that I have only a month to survive.
All we could do was try Chemotherapy. It might work or it might not work. When it shrinks, it should be shrinking away from the spine and not towards the spine. I fought cancer bravely. I came out as a changed person. I am in the 7th year of a remission now. I was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I am a case study now in that hospital. They invite me over there and show the new students how I talk.
We shouldn’t ignore any symptoms, be it any kind of cancer, thinking that it will go away. You can always take a second person’s opinion. If anything stays for a persistent long period, consult a good specialist or an oncologist. Cancer, in greek words, means crab. Crabs can move in all directions, just like cancer. Before you know you have cancer, it has already spread to the other parts of the body. Take the right step and consult the right doctor.
Advice for the Smokers:
They can take me as a horrible warning. I used to smoke. I am open to sharing my mistakes and people usually hide or shy away from sharing their mistakes. I have a Facebook group of 4,000 youngsters following and I also go to colleges and schools and show them my pictures with a tube in my throat and a burned neck. I was lucky to survive this. You don’t get anything from smoking. It is a waste of money, a waste of health, and a waste of life.
They call me a miracle because I wasn’t supposed to survive. Everyone is not lucky. The loans that my family has taken for treatment, I am trying to repay them. I had to sell all my property, I wasn’t even sure that I would survive. It doesn’t make any sense. When you smoke, your whole family gets affected. Even if you don’t get any cancer from smoking, you might get a stroke, get paralyzed, or a heart attack. We are made to breathe oxygen, not to breathe smoke.
Quitting smoking is not so difficult. It might be hard for a week or so. You will not die easily. You will die strugglingly.
Road to Recovery (Remission):
I might look like I have recovered. I have trouble talking because one of my chords have completely paralyzed. My teeth are duplicates. Some of my teeth fell out because of the radiation. I have tinnitus which is continuous ringing in my ears. It is a side effect. Even after 7 years, my thyroid is not working. I have blood pressure too. These all are my permanent companions. It is very hard to live with all the problems. I cannot run because there is a lack of connection between my brain and my body. Therefore sometimes I forgot to lift my leg and fall.
I am happy that I am alive. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on this planet. I am alive! Love yourself. Don’t crib about what you don’t have, be happy for what you have.
Pivotal Turning Point:
My pivotal turning point was my cancer. It made me realize that whatever I was doing was wrong. It made me change my thoughts. Life is temporary. Everyone is going to die. Life is precious and makes the most out of your time.
The next turning point was when I started cancer support groups after my recovery. I started helping people and that made me realize, I was happy, that I could be part of someone else’s sorrow or fight. Cancer has made me famous.
An act of Kindness:
I am indebted to many things in the universe that gives me joy. One of the kindest acts would be when I was in the hospital while going through chemotherapy my wife was working. She was not able to be with me all the time. She used to drop me at the hospital and go to work. I had a tube in my throat and wasn’t able to talk. Because of Chemo, you start shivering and you always feel cold. I was shivering and wanted a warm blanket. God sent an angel! In five minutes, there was a nurse and she was putting blankets on everyone. I could not talk, but I had tears in my eyes.
She could understand my feelings. She put her hand on my head. That is one thing I could never forget. I never thought I would have someone helping me.
My bucket list is never-ending. I used to love perfumes and colognes. I used to save the perfume. After cancer, I realized who will use the perfumes when I am gone? From then onwards, I started not saving the perfumes for a special occasion. I changed. I started going to the Gym and saved money. I bought a Lamborghini. I always wanted to fly a plane and I did that. I started traveling a lot. I saw the whole of the US. I saw the Great Canyon. Right now, I want to get a license to fly the plane. It is very expensive to get the license, but the list goes on.
I won’t die until I dance at my son’s wedding, Chris. Cancer won’t decide when I will die, I will decide when I die. He is fifteen now. You need something to hold onto. You just have to hold on to life. Once I dance at Chris’s wedding, I will wait to be a grandpa.
It’s part of human nature: why me? I told myself that it was because of my smoking. However, I used to ask myself why not my friend, who used to smoke a lot more than me. Cancer made me positive. You will start finding good in the bad. It is an art. Let’s take COVID, it’s bad. We cannot change the death rates, but you get to spend a year with your family. If there was no COVID, I wouldn’t be in a zoom meeting with you. The cancer had spread to my spine, and for that reason, they didn’t remove my vocal cords. It was a blessing in disguise. Your mind is powerful. It is very easy to be positive. Once positive, It becomes a habit to be positive. Cancer is just a disease.
There are many ways to be positive: look up to people who have survived cancer, read books, and if he can survive, I can survive attitude. Once the person gets out of cancer, there are many things to do.
Every lock has a key, every problem has a solution. You have to find the solution to your problem.
I am very active on all social media platforms. I keep on posting about my treatment on Facebook. I made an album on Cancer. My friends were following me and we used to talk about my Cancer treatment. When I went back to India, I met my school friends. They came up with an idea of a presentation to show the Grade 9 and Grade 10 students in their school as they have higher chances to start smoking at that age. The principal was very happy and supportive.
It spread like fire. Many schools approached me after that. Kids wanted to connect to me. I made this group, where I could help the kids to quit smoking. I do have a couple of doctors with me as well who can help students to quit smoking. I am not a doctor, but I have experience. I have people with who I would connect people to quit smoking.
My aim is out of 100 people at least I would be able to help 2 people in quitting smoking.
I feel blessed in many ways. I appreciate whatever the universe has given me. I am a very honest person. I accept my mistakes. I am happy being who I am. I got a second chance and I am doing the best I can. My family, my wife, and my kid are all very supportive. My wife was my warrior. If she weren’t there, I wouldn’t be alive.
Message for Caregivers:
Caregivers are the main warriors. They have to be strong. The patient is going to look up to the caregiver. The caregiver is mostly from the family. When my wife used to clean the tube, she never showed it on her face, even though she didn’t like it. She never showed it in her face. A person fighting Cancer always has doubts and caregivers work really hard to divert their mind away.
The caregiver should be frank. Even if the Doctor is negative, the Caregiver has to be strong, positive, and patient. I used to forget and throw things. I did not do this on purpose. There were changes in the body that made me go through it.
The Caregiver is not supposed to lie to the patients. One day at a time. The journey doesn’t end in a day.
I have already said the basic ones. Life is unpredictable. Nothing is permanent. Don’t wait for an occasion. I knew I was going to die in a month. Every day is a bonus. The kite flew away from me, but I caught it just in time. I understood the value of life. Be happy. We are always running, but we never stop to think about why we are doing something. Everyone needs money, but when will you use it?
Don’t wait for occasions, create your own occasions. I have lost my friends who were health freaks due to the pandemic. I can’t believe this can happen, but this is the reality.
You should learn to accept your death. Take life seriously; yours and others too. Be good to others and apologize.
Message for Cancer Survivors:
Cancer is not a big deal. I am saying this, not because I survived cancer, but because I realized it’s just a disease. If diagnosed at an early stage, it is curable. Apart from money, you lose your friends, you lose your family and a lot of things change.
Life after Cancer will be more beautiful. You will learn many things. Don’t fall for fake cures. Cancer is a crab. It spreads, so you don’t have time to run to the fake doctors. Do the right things. Miracles do happen. I am the living proof.
Mehul Vyas is a Cancer Survivor, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Larynx Cancer. He started smoking at the age of 15 due to peer pressure. He was a chain-smoker. The Local Doctor was unable to diagnose the Cancer; however, he got diagnosed with Cancer in Pune, when he went to stay with his mother. His wife worked in the US; hence, they got his treatment done in the US. He had a month to survive, but now he is in his 7th year of remission. Cancer has definitely taught Mehul a number of lessons, but one of the biggest lessons he learned is to enjoy life as it comes and to use his perfumes too without the wait for an occasion. Mehul has started his own support groups on Facebook and gives presentations in the schools to urge the youth to quit smoking by sharing many of his cancer treatment pictures and journey. He is eternally grateful for his support system- his pillar of strengths- his wife, son, and family. He cannot wait to dance at his Son’s wedding and be a grandpa too.